As the festive season is once again upon us, people will be starting to think about nights out with friends and work colleagues. With extended families often living further afield, and a fast paced life, finding childcare can be hard. You may be thinking “can I leave my child alone?” This question is often discussed on our safeguarding courses.
What does the law say?
Surprising, there is no legal age where a child may be left unattended. However if it is deemed the child was placed at risk, you could be prosecuted for neglect!
As parents if you are considering leaving your child alone, you need to weigh up, is the child mature enough to be left unsupervised? Would they become upset if there was no adult present? Likewise, is the child mature and responsible enough to be looking after siblings? It goes without saying that babies and very young children should never be left alone, even for short periods.
The NSPCC post some great guidance tips, here is an excerpt direct from the page. (Link to view this is above.)
- Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
- Children under the age of 12 are rarely mature enough to cope in an emergency and should not be left at home alone for a long period of time
- Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight
- Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at home alone
- A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with this, regardless of their age
- If a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older sibling
- When leaving a younger child with an older sibling think about what may happen if they were to have a falling out – would they both be safe?
There is even a quiz on the link above that you can complete to give you guidance advice. While no one knows your child better than you, the quiz might just prompt some conversational points.
Neglect, like other forms of abuse is a serious issue and can leave long term devastating effects. If you are concerned about a child who is alone, you have a duty to keep that child safe. Safeguarding a child’s welfare is everyone’s responsibility.
- Is the child is alone right now? If you feel they are in immediate danger dial 999 and speak to the police who will be able to check the child is safe.
- If the child was previously left and you are concerned it will happen again? You can call NSPCC confidentially. They will assess the situation and act accordingly. They can be reached on 0808 800 5000